Like an athlete tired after a marathon, 3-gatsu no Lion goes for its calmest episode yet right after its first shogi match. While preceding entries each advanced the story in their own way, this one is built on subtle hints alone, making it somewhat unsatisfying.
Last week ended on Hina crying. This week we find her in a completely different situation. She’s worried… about making a bento to reward the guy she likes after his big match tomorrow. While Rei is mechanically peeling chestnuts (the secret of why he’s so good at it lying in the first adverb), she’s busy disagreeing with Akari over how the bento should be. No matter how much they argue, the big sis agrees to hand her three thousand yen to make the most fulfilling bento known to mankind.
While this is all in good fun, what follows may be of greater interest. Rei accompanies Hina aon way to the convenience store, and talk about Akari and how she’ll make Rei into a fluffy ball soon enough. He seems somewhat skeptical; and knowing his situation, it’s easy to understand why. This is beautifully supported by the colors; the two of them walk below a deep blue sky, the streetlights giving the whole picture a colorful, saturated tone. But when Rei walks back home alone, the whole word is grey. This evidences what the Kawamoto family brings him: with them around, everything seems alive, a stark contrast from the colorless world he sees when facing himself.
The next morning… Hina is desperate. She can’t cook properly! And she’s forgotten to pick a dress! And she’s going to be late! It’s all a disaster. Meanwhile, Rei is breezily going through his shopping list. He seems to be in a good mood, for when he accidentally finds Hina’s middle school, he makes a lot of candid observations about Takahashi’s handsomeness and Hina’s support. But unfortunately, his demons are never far… the word “love” prompts dark recollections of a girl he may have loved, but who we imagine treated him awfully.
The mood swing definitely felt strange. A lighthearted scene abruptly turned dark, and returned to its original state in a matter of seconds. Maybe such was the intended effect: to unsettle us the way Rei’s mind is easily unsettled.
Under the romantic sunset, most adolescents are worried about stuffing their bellies after an exhausting match. That includes Takahashi, who pays Hina no mind. She can’t muster the courage to give the bento, and would have thrown it away if not for Rei. She opens up to him. She lacks confidence; she thinks Akari wouldn’t understand because all men would love to get a bento from her. But her? Her? Who would care for a packed lunch from someone as plain as her! She cries her insecurity away.
But Rei is incredibly apathetic; he doesn’t understand this mood swing he feels plain strange. For someone who allowed her to cry all she wanted a couple of nights ago, his response in this case is weirdly cold. He seems to have no grasp on the emotional struggles of love whatsoever. Perhaps that’s a result of having shut his heart away.
In the end, Akari proves the most understanding of all; referencing her own past experiences. Though after tasting the bento, both her and Rei silently agree that not giving it to Takahashi was a fortunate turn of events.
The next part is focused on Harunobu. He comes to Rei’s apartment at nine a.m. to test some shogi techniques. Rei is mildly annoyed by all this, but Harunobu’s flamboyance is too amusing to hate, and they decide on eating together.
Going through the restaurants, they run into Momo. Harunobu is an immediate success, as she mistakes him for a round creature from a famous anime. Yet he’s an even greater hit with Akari, who loves plump things so much she readily invites him for dinner. She, too, is in love – though we’ll reserve judgment on the quality of this feeling of hers as opposed to Hina’s…
This leads to much comedy, especially when Harunobu’s servant just magically finds where the boy is. Seems someone isn’t even aware they’re being watched. Hanaoka enters the house, and a merry night announces itself through a last frame that seems right out of a children’s book.
We are tempted to compliment this episode on being “subtle”. But there is a fine line between subtlety and underachievement; one this episode may have crossed. While still just as visually pleasing and conductive of a few nice tidbits of information on the cast, the lack of relevant drama made this spectacle feel somewhat empty. Hina’s first love may seem important, and there are some good moments from both her and Rei there, but it’s quickly dropped. The second part was mainly comedic and lacked any sort of meaningful information; while fun to watch, no one will come out of it wiser. 3-gatsu has been good so far, and surely one such episode doesn’t do much to diminish the show’s quality, but a subpar entry in such a strong series always feels frustrating.
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